Monday, September 15, 2014

Hollywood Slush Pile: When Shriners Attack

From two years ago, this is a slightly augmented version of my last—to date—offering from the Slush Pile.
 
(Here is the third edition of Tales From The Hollywood Slush Pile exploring the quarter million unsolicited screenplays that perish each year, passed over and forgotten along with their authors. This week we examine a work that sought to explore the depths of paranoia, but just didn't.)

“Dawn and a small Oregon town sleeps deeply like a sloppy drunk on New Year’s day. Suddenly the early morning peace is split by the sound of many tiny engines. 

Then they appear. 

A young women out jogging is the first to see them, riding out of the mist. She screams a forlorn scream of terror and despair and a darker emotion too primal to name but sometimes heard in Costco. 

But it is too late. 

They are many. 

They are Shriners. 

And they have come to rule.” 

Image: betterphoto.com
 
The above passage was taken from an outline prepared by Lisa Manly-Guam. Author of the screenplay, They Came in Little Cars, (originally titled Mark of the Fez). Manly-Guam was a 24-year-old activist from Salem, Oregon. Other than writing this cryptic photo play, she remains a cipher. All we know for certain is that Lisa believed passionately in odd things.

One of her outrĂ© fears involved a patriarchal coup undertaken by the Shriners, an offshoot of the Masons. Formed as a fraternal order in 1870, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or Shriners, are noted for charitable works, wearing silly hats and riding little cars in parades. In Manly-Guam’s opus, they are the hidden hand behind the world’s ills, infiltrating politics and banking; biding their time, tugging strings from the shadows.

And then one day they strike.

 In her 1997 tale, the small town of Pine Head, Oregon is overrun by a Shriner horde. Shocked citizens cannot escape and must endure a reign of enforced fun. Our protagonist is the same jogger from the outline, Jenny Loam. In the wake of invasion, she find herself isolated as her parents and siblings embrace the Shriner ethos of good times and service. Loam stays silent, outwardly complying, even joining a Shriner women’s auxiliary, the Daughters of the Nile.

But inwardly, she vows to throw off the Shriner yoke.

Eventually Loam forms a guerrilla band, obtains automatic weapons and ambushes the Shriners at their weekly parade. Steel-jacked slugs riddle the invaders. Little cars crash, bursting into little flames. The Shriners attempt to fight back, hurling water balloons, but they are cut down like bunch grass. The film ends on a close shot of a bloody fez.

Registered with the Writers Guild of America West, Manley-Guam's screenplay landed at Sun Nova Pictures, a small independent production company. The coverage was puzzled.

      “The Shriner Menace failed to deliver. They came across as goofy but benign.”

     “Didn’t the Shriners build a hospital in Pine Head? Killing them sends a mixed message.”
       
     “Perhaps the story would make more sense if Jenny’s parents were maimed by a little car.”

Out of the slush pile and into the wastebasket.

No more is know about the subsequent life of Lisa Manly-Guam and her Shrinerphobic epic. She remains anonymous. But that happens. Unknown authors are as common in this town as…well…unknown screenplays.

But now a lost tale has finally been told.

Free Republic

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